The Complete Guide to Types of Earrings - Brilliant Earth
Mobile Top Button Desktop Top Button

Types of Earrings

Women Wearing 18K Yellow Gold Marseille Diamond Hoop Earrings

The type of earrings you choose can be just what your outfit needs to take it to the next level or to offset it with casual cool. For instance, if you’re shooting for sophisticated and polished, you might splurge for a delicate drop earring or an elegant hoop. But discreet can still be decorative, as with a classic, compact stud. In this guide, learn how the type of earring makes all the difference.

The History of Earrings

Europe’s oldest man was found with pierced ears, and while it’s safe to say earrings have always been a symbol of expression, the meaning has changed over time. Here’s a bit of the jewelry’s journey, from Caesar to Shakespeare.

Status symbol: Starting around 3,000 BC, earrings were worn in the Middle East to indicate the wearer’s religious or political beliefs, and sometimes their social class depending on the cultural views in the area.

Talisman: Earrings became ritualistic for some. Some tribes wore them to prevent demons from entering their mind through the ears. At one point, Persian soldiers even considered earrings a powerful protection charm and they’d wear one into battle.

Fashion icon: Around 200 AD, it became an international sensation to wear gems as fashionable earpieces. In the years after, religions began banning earrings because they saw piercing as kind of a bodily blasphemy (clip-ons had a few centuries to be invented). It’s no surprise that during that same era, thieves wore them as a devil-may-care act of rebellion. Basically, when it came to this type of jewelry, you were either pious or a pirate. Though sailors would also wear earrings to pay for their burial if they washed on shore (some engraving their home port).

Earrings then came and went — between the hairstyles, hats, and high collars of the Middle Ages, for example, this jewelry placement was made irrelevant. Since earrings couldn’t be seen, brooches and lockets took their place as the popular alternative. When up-dos came back around, so did earrings. The personal expression that exploded from the free love era of the 1960’s made earrings a more permanent fixture in fashion.

These days, earrings have become less of a status symbol. Yes, some gemstones are still valued more than others. But for the most part, jewelry is no longer a power play. It’s about pure style (And sometimes romance. And cherished family heirlooms. Okay, there’s a couple other things. But you can decide what your jewelry means to you).

15 Types of Earrings

Certain types of earrings are made to be ornate and glamorous, and some earrings are better suited when you’re searching for something comfy that will avoid snagging.

Here are the need-to-know types of earrings when you’re shopping for yourself or a loved one:

1. Stud Earrings

When you want a simple, tidy look and an earring that’s easy to wear, adorn your earlobe with the uncomplicated stud earrings. Even though a stud earring has a minimal look, it can adapt to any occasion. You can dress it up with a diamond, or pair it with additional earrings on the outer cartilage for an edgier appearance.

2. Hoop Earrings

A favorite since the Bronze Age in Greece, the demand for hoop earrings is as infinite as the loop they form. They never went out of style, but they’re an even bigger deal now more than ever. Typically round, hoop earrings come in any shape, and the bigger the hoop, the bolder it is. While silver and gold are go-tos to flatter any tastes, a bejeweled hoop is a swanky, glitzy take on this trend.


3. Huggie Earrings

These cute, close-knit earrings wrap around your lobe. There’s no way around it: they’re a mini hoop. Less pronounced, they’re perfect for people who like the shape without the showmanship.

4. Dangle Earrings

Speaking of showy, dangle earrings are a little more dramatic and eye-catching. The “dangle” earring hangs past the earlobe, sometimes even down to the shoulders (especially in Art Deco days). These earrings always come with a little movement, which gives them even more razzle dazzle.

5. Drop Earrings

Extending past the earlobe, drop earrings are less stagy danglers. They’re stationary, ideal for those who want to add flashy length to a stud but prefer it without the movement.

6. Cluster Earrings

Cluster earrings are essentially groupings of studs. The more, the flair-ier. They can come with a snug fit similar to studs, or dangle.

7. Chandelier Earrings

If you’re a lover of excess, this type of dangle earring is as extravagant and theatrical as its namesake. The chandelier earring is for fans of luxury, and who want the world to know as much.

8. Threader Earrings

If you picture metal passing through your lobe like thread stitched through fabric, you get what this earring is going for visually. Open-ended, the threader earring hangs down on each side of the lobe. Posts can be added to your ear’s outer cartilage for more of a sliding, chain-linked look (think multiple stitches). Because this type of earring is thin, it doesn’t feel as intricate as it looks, so you can literally rest easy.

9. Jacket Earrings

This type of earring is a twofer. It has an initial stud, but it also comes with an attached design that wraps beneath the bottom of your lobe. It actually fastens in the back, hiding the connection, so a jacket earring has the fun, seamless look of a matching set without the visual of the mechanism that holds it in place.

10. Teardrop Earrings

Shaped like a tear and styled like a drop. But think happy tears: sweeping romantic gestures, wistful nostalgia, a heartwarming surprise. This little pear-bodied earring is about channeling that euphoric bliss (and makes a fine gift or outfit addition for any of those occasions).

11. Bajoran Earrings

For all you Trekkies, yes, you read that right. These earrings were named after the jewelry worn by these characters as a testament to their faith. The earrings connect layered chains between your lobe and upper ear.

12. Ear Climbers (Crawlers)

A trendy new addition to the dangling scene, ear climbers are sort of the anti-gravity opposite. Rather than hang from the ear, they work their way up. This type of earrings is perfect for those seeking jewelry that feels fresh and unexpected, usually featuring foliage or celestial motifs.

13. Ear Cuffs

A total vintage find, these C-shaped hoops were an elite earring in ancient times. Modern style dictates that wearers flaunt one standalone cuff.

14. Single Earrings

More of a trend than a type of earring, any style can go stag. Wearing a single earring instead of a pair is creative, confident, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

15. Barbell Earrings

Your steampunk daydream. Shaped like a barbell, two spheres bookend a metal bar, with one acting as the removable clasp.

Which Earring Type is Best for Me?

Ultimately, the only thing to ask when choosing earrings is if they bring you joy. But here are a few pointers:

  1. Match your face shape and hair length to enhance your features. For example, geometric earrings can elongate round faces, while long earrings can draw attention away from the forehead.
  2. You can also take cues from your hair color: gold tones bring out the best in blondes, while dark hair pairs well with silver (rose gold for you red heads).
  3. Your lifestyle matters, too. When you prefer the security of jewelry that doesn’t dangle, opt for studs and huggies. If you’re okay with a bit of fuss, go fancy. Chandelier and dangle earrings fall in this category.

Types of Earring Backs

So, you’ve chosen the perfect earring style(s) for you. Now it’s about finding a comfortable fit.

Post Backs

Hinge Backs

Shepard Hook Backs

Lever Backs

Clip-On Backs

Screw Backs

French Clips

Which Earring Back Type is Best for Me?

If you’re constantly misplacing things, choose screw backs, which have to be unspun to be removed (if your earring style is worth the dime, the backing is worth the time — being hasty can strip the posts). On the other hand, when time is of the essence, clip-ons are speedy solutions. They’re just not super sturdy, so choose your activities wisely when worn.

Earring FAQs

What is the most popular earring style?

Studs and hoops top the list of most popular earring styles, with danglers and climbers close behind these timeless two. While pearls are the “it” material of the moment, there are trends turning these styles into statement-makers: mismatched, sculptural, and celestial earrings are becoming best sellers.

What are the simplest types of earrings?

Studs, by far. They’re small, straightforward without any embellishments, and nestled directly on the earlobe.

What metal is best for earrings?

It’s a matter of platinum vs. gold, depending on your budget and aesthetic. For sensitive skin, 24k gold and platinum are safe, hypoallergenic jewelry materials. These pure metals will not only prevent rashes and itching; they’re also rust- and scratch-proof for long-lasting allure. See our jewelry care instructions for low-key maintenance tips.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the types of earrings can help you save time shopping. You’ll know what look, feel, and placement you’re trying to achieve (and if you don’t, you’ll gain the knowledge to refine your taste). When you’re ready to find that new favorite, shop all earrings at Brilliant Earth for ethical, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Shop the Story

You Might Also Like from the blog

Get Inspired

Tag us on Instagram @brilliantearth

Comments (0)